I’m a little surprised R.E.M. doesn’t seem to get its props from the general RTH community. They have (well, had) a driving, melodic rhythm section; a wankery-eschewing guitarist with (judging from interviews) an encyclopedic knowledge of rock; and an eccentric lead singer who pushed them into new territory. They’re kinda like XTC in that regard.
Sure, their brand of jangly college rock became a cul de sac thanks to lesser lights. And yes, their preachy brand of political gesture sure can grate. But – of their early work — I submit that Murmur is a still-intriguing bit of mystery with genuninely innovative production, and Reckoning shows that they dial down production quirks and still make interesting music.
So what’s the deal? Their sound has aged much better than most of their ‘80s-era brethren. Is it Michael Stipe’s androgyny? Isn’t that taking RTH’s pro-wrestling inclinations a little too far?
At the very least, please watch the above clip and tell me that’s not a great performance of a great song!